The Plight of The Disappearing Educator

Today, I read with much concern, the percentage of male teachers in the classroom continues to fall. As an experienced male educator since man first walked on the moon, I believe it is important for both boys and girls to have classroom experience with both genders at some point in their learning journey. That way a balanced view of  men and women as educators is more likely to develop. Increasingly, students can navigate the primary years without spending any sustained time in the presence of a male teacher.

Building trusting relationships with students should be viewed as gender neutral matter. It is critical for students to view all their teachers as caring, responsive, resilient and knowledgeable. 

Throughout my career as an educator I constantly strived to demonstrate the aforementioned qualities to students. Alongside that I have attempted to show through my actions and words that sport, the arts and literacy are not mutually exclusive passions. 

I am a male who is a lifelong reader and writer. I am also a sporting tragic. I have never seen these passions as an either/or choice. It important to challenge such misconceptions.  It is important to sell the message, 'Guys can be life long readers too.'

I wish there were more males keen to go into teaching, for it remains a most valuable calling.  During my time as an educator one thing has remained constant- every teacher, male or female is charged with the responsibility of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds. For this reason, I remain a curious learner myself. 

As a youth, I demonstrated a visible passion for sport. Football, cricket, athletics were my three passions. Little else mattered. I devoted innumerable hours to perfecting my skills in these sporting zones. It was always football in winter; cricket and athletics in summer. The backyard of our house was the setting for my initial efforts. -Sometimes in a shared sense and sometimes on my own. I kicked the football, leapt in the air, marked it, chased it, bounced it –round and round and round the yard. The football and I were almost constantly connected. The onset of darkness at the end of the day was the trigger for calling an end to my pursuit of my sporting dreams. They burned brightly.  Things reached a point when my mother intervened and suggested I move my practice to a more appropriate setting because her flowers were constantly under attack from stray footballs. I was decimating her dahlias.  Cricket was much the same. Bat and ball were equally attended to as I lived out my passion for the summer game. Athletics allowed me to spend time running, jumping, leaping, and throwing to my heart’s content. In fact my entire boyhood was a scene of constant motion.

I held strongly to a vision of playing sport at the elite level from a very early age. I was a boy in a bubble of sporting fantasy. Emulating heroes and performing feats of sporting immortality were happening right there in my head; in our backyard or anywhere else I was in proximity to a ball.  Pretty normal boy stuff really.  In time, my dream fell short of that famed filled sporting future, but the passion for sport has persisted to this day. Its flame burns brightly.

Another passion, lay submerged within me at that time. It was a slow burning passion and it waited patiently for me to notice it. It made itself apparent around the age of eleven when my Grade 6 teacher shared his particular passion for poetry and reading. The flames were thus fanned. It is a passion that has endured to this day. My Dad always loved words and frequently engaged me in discussion, word play and the like. Experiences like this helped me recognize a passion. A passion,  that could sit quite comfortably alongside my sporting passion – a passion for things literate. I fortunately realized such passions are not mutually exclusive.  

I share these thoughts because I frequently encounter boys in schools who see passion as an either or choice. -Sport or the arts, but not both. The culture in which they live frequently gives them such messages. The media stereotypes the male persona as 'blokey' and in need of raw meat pursuits.  Who decides what your passions will be? Who has the right to tell an adolescent boy he can’t gain equal delight from poetry and basketball, painting and football, cricket and sculpture. Hopefully a more rounded adult emerges from such diversely passionate pursuits.

 I continue to follow my football team with an unbridled passion, just as I pursue my enduring passion for writing. Why should anyone be denied the right to pursue more than one passion? The answer probably lies in societal pressures and some misguided view of manhood. Macho driven and short sighted. 

The reality is that as we age our bodies tell us that while the passion for sport remains, the ability to actively participate slips away – like oil held in the hand. What remains are memories of past deeds and the effects of the accumulated injuries. I’m grateful that reading and writing are not body contact sports. They are passions in which I can actively participate for the rest of my life. They are passions that can go the journey. That suits me fine.

Passion is described in various ways however, in this context I view passion as an intense inner drive. It embodies a feeling of commitment or strong devotion to some activity, object, or concept. I can live with that. My particular passion for reading and writing sustains and comforts me.  I am so grateful for this part of who I have become.  May you, dear reader, readily find your passion. 

Let's also encourage young men with a passion for teaching and learning to step up and join the ranks of dedicated educators. Their contributions should be actively sought and supported. Otherwise, male teachers will go the way of the Thylocene and something important will be lost.


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